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Is AI worth the hype for accountants?

4th Jul 2024
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Bright was created in 2021 when Thesaurus Software Ltd. and Relate Software Ltd. decided to join...
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Artificial Intelligence (AI) is a buzzword that has been making waves across various professions, and accounting is no exception. But how many accountants are truly leveraging AI in their day-to-day work, and is it worth the hype?

The current reality of AI in accountancy

Despite the hype, the adoption of AI in accounting practices remains limited. Many accountants continue to rely on traditional methods and familiar tools. 

One major challenge is the steep learning curve associated with AI technologies. Many accountants are not yet comfortable with the idea of machines handling complex analytical tasks. This transition requires not only technical training but also a shift in mindset, which can be difficult for many professionals who have built their careers on manual processes and human judgement.

Additionally, the cost of implementing AI solutions can be prohibitive for smaller firms. High upfront costs for software, hardware, and training can deter small to mid-sized practices from adopting these technologies. 

There is also the issue of data security, and accuracy which remains a significant concern when dealing with sensitive financial information. 

While there are promising advancements, many of the AI applications in accounting software are still in their infancy, and their practical benefits may not be fully realised yet. AI may be overrated in the short term but it is underestimated in the long term. 

The future potential

While AI might not yet be transforming accounting practices today, its potential for the future is immense. It is believed that AI will eventually take over more complex tasks such as predictive analytics, advanced fraud detection, and fully automated audits. These capabilities could lead to unprecedented efficiency and accuracy in accounting, allowing accountants to shift their focus to other more important tasks. 

AI's long-term benefits are often underestimated. Beyond automating routine tasks, AI could provide deep insights into financial data, identify patterns that humans might miss, and even offer strategic advice. As AI technology continues to evolve, its applications in accounting will likely expand, making it an indispensable tool for the profession.

As AI technology continues to evolve, it will transform how accountants interact with clients, ensuring regulatory compliance, and making data-driven decisions. Embracing AI will enable accountants to stay competitive and deliver unparalleled value in an increasingly dynamic business environment.

Steps to take 

To ensure your practice doesn’t get left behind here are some steps to take that can help familiarise you with what AI can offer.

  • Experiment with AI tools – the best thing you can do right now is to play with what AI can offer. Begin with simple AI tools and gradually integrate more complex ones as you become more comfortable. This approach can help mitigate the initial costs and learning curve.
  • Use communication apps – ChatGPT can be a great starting point. There are many ways you can use ChatGPT in your practice such as helping with interview preparation, drafting emails and generating ideas for marketing content. These applications can save you time and enhance the quality of your communications.
  • Invest in education and training – invest in learning about AI through courses, webinars, and industry conferences. Understanding the basics of AI and its potential applications in accounting will be helpful. Many online platforms offer courses specifically designed for accountants, covering topics like AI fundamentals, machine learning, and data analytics.
  • Implement AI in a specific area first – for example, use AI for bank reconciliation or expense management. Monitor the results and gather feedback from your team to understand the benefits and challenges. 

As you integrate AI tools, prioritise data security. Accountants must adhere to best practices for data security and compliance, such as encrypting sensitive information, regularly updating security protocols, and conducting thorough vendor assessments.

Practical AI applications today

AI's practical applications in accounting are growing, with immediate benefits in improving communication and efficiency. 

AI tools like ChatGPT are transforming communication within accounting practices by automating the drafting of emails, client letters and reports with accuracy and speed. This automation ensures consistent messaging across all communications, saving you time.

By streamlining the writing process, ChatGPT allows accountants to allocate more resources to client interaction and strategic planning. This not only boosts productivity but also elevates the quality and professionalism of client communications, building stronger client relationships.

AI applications also offer significant efficiency gains by automating repetitive tasks such as data entry, expense categorisation and bank reconciliation. Powered by advanced machine learning algorithms, these tools process large volumes of data swiftly and accurately, minimising the risk of human error. 

AI enhances efficiency in data analysis by quickly identifying trends and anomalies, enabling accountants to provide timely insights to clients. These efficiency gains enable accountants to focus on strategic initiatives and value-added services, positioning their firms for sustainable growth in a competitive market.

While AI might not be drastically changing accounting practices today, its future potential cannot be ignored. Engaging with AI now, through education and experimentation, will help accountants stay competitive and leverage its growing potential to enhance their services.